After I came home from applying for a job at Publix - I have to get it, I just have to - Rob asked me, "Do you have any plans for today?" I didn't, so he insisted that we needed to find somewhere to immerse ourselves in some water pronto. I knew just the place: Biscayne National Park, just 10 minutes away, right here in Homestead! I'd never actually been there, so I didn't know what to expect, but a quick visit to the website told me we would definitely be able to swim. Perfect!
We didn't just jump right into that wondrous lagoon you see the kids - and Rob, floating - in, there, oh no! Definitely not. I made them work for it. At the Visitor's Center, we found an artist's rendition of all kinds of Florida marine fish on the wall, so Rob and I (with the help of a volunteer on certain fish - hey, it's been 15 years since I graduated, and that's the kind of "use it or lose it" knowledge I haven't used much since then) schooled them about identifying them, certain features, even some scientific names I still remembered. I told them all about the red musculature of tuna and why they are that way, their habits and so on and so forth. I dropped all kinds of knowledge on them, so when we got to this beach, I told them they couldn't go swimming unless they could each tell me something they'd learned that day so far. Each one was able to describe something new right off the bat, so they were able to swim. Motivation will do that!
In the water, I taught them about comb and box jellies (the ctenophore phylum) versus true jellies (the cnidarians) when we came across a few of those. Then a remora came to visit me, and we learned about those. It didn't stay on me for long, nor Rob after that, but it looooved Sophia, who hadn't had a bath in a couple days! Ha! It didn't visit Chloë - who showered earlier in the day - or Jack - who bathed the night before - at all, so Sophia was the "shark" it decided it needed to clean. At first, she was a little freaked out, but when I assured her it wasn't going to hurt her and was taking care of her, she said, "Aw, what a cute little fishy," and tried to catch it, unsuccessfully. I tried to find more critters, to no avail, so I switched tactics and told them what I could remember about the three kinds of seagrass found here. Which isn't much; I didn't remember much when I was actually in school to begin with, so we'll have to look that stuff up later!
The restaurant was closed for the day, but they had this signboard out front. I know Rob will take advantage of that when he gets his kayak and fishing poles back in a few short hours! How great is that deal, huh? I don't know if they'll actually clean the fish for ya, but $7.50 for your seafood dinner with two sides? Heck yeah, can't beat it!
Later, I took the kiddos over to the mangroves, where I explained that there were three kinds here: red, gray, and white. We learned lots more about the mangroves and what lives there (great hiding place for fish!), and I even let them lick a few leaves to taste the salt.
We went walking around the beach for a while, and the kids found this pretend-dig site. They immediately went to work scrounging for what Sophia thought, at first, were real fossils! She thought she was a "kid archaeologist" and was discovering something new. So hysterical. I love seeing the three of them explore, discover, and learn. It's so fresh and fun.
At that point, a huge storm cell rolled in, and the lifeguard announced that they were closing the beach. We hustled the kids into the shower, having heard lots of thunder and knowing the lightning wouldn't be far behind. They were super disappointed (as were we, gotta admit), but we assured them that it was close enough to home that we could come back soon, and often. That helped a bit.
On our way out of the park, we saw tons of vultures scavenging around, so of course we had a little discussion about those, too. Nasty little buzzards, but useful to the ecosystem, so hey.
I happened, at that time, to get a text alert from 7-Eleven informing me that new coupons were available in the app, so I checked and, what do you know? Free Slurpees for all! Of course, they wanted those bad boys, so I made them each tell me some new things they'd learned that day in order to get their treat. Jack and Chloë dropped knowledge on me right away, but Sophia, still disappointed, said, "I learned that the beach shuts down and you have to leave when there's a stom." Haha! Useful and important information, sure, but not what I had in mind. Try again, Toots. She came through for me, so rest assured, she got her Slurpee, too.
And now, I must get back to straightening up my room and the rest of the house, so the movers can bring all our goods into a clean place. Woohoo, can't wait - à tout à l'heure, folks!